From its humble beginnings as a weekend family attraction, its influence has filtered into popular culture, with the fashion, film and music worlds all taking inspiration from the bright lights and glitz of the Big Top. Britney's last album Circus helped to regenerate her tainted image and provided her flailing pop career with a much needed boost. This year, everyone's favourite vampire RPatz starred alongside Reece Witherspoon in Water For Elephants, a love story based on the relationship between a runaway who joins the circus and falls in love with the ringmasters wife. While watering some elephants..? I presume that's involved in the plot somehow.
I've never taken the opportunity to visit a circus. If I got the chance I would definitely see a Cirque de Soleil show, who perform all over the globe, combining art forms from around the world with dance and daring acrobatics. More importantly, they don't involve live animals in their show. Sure, they dress up like them (in some amazing costumes), but they don't have elephants prancing around in headdresses, or seals balancing balls on their noses.
Some people could argue that zoos are cruel. But in today's world, where consideration for natural habitats is cast aside in favour of destruction of wild spaces to create land for farming or housing - AKA profit - in some instances a zoo provides a safe haven. And with so many species being added to endangered list every day, breeding programmes are essential in making sure that future generations are left with more than photos of some of the planet's greatest animals. The majority of zoos do their best to provide a realistic natural habitat for their inhabitants, and apart from a daily feeding show (which I'm sure the animal's don't mind - extra food for them!) they aren't forcing them to take part in performances that involve unnatural or harmful behaviour. While, like every business, there are those that aren't regulated and operate outside the law, in most cases zoos are taking care of animals and helping to regenerate their numbers, while providing them with a safe place to live.
However, I don't believe that circuses offer the same care to their 'stars'. The fundamental element of their success is that they travel around, thus generating new business on a regular basis. So it is impossible to provide the animals with a naturalistic home, most of the time they are kept in a cage as they travel vast distances every day. While I don't doubt that some zoo keepers do give the creatures as much love and attention as they can, this just isn't enough to keep a wild animal fully happy. They need space and they need company, not to be taught how to perform tricks for the public's entertainment. Training an elephant to dance around on it's hind legs may wow a crowd, but this is an unnatural behaviour, which could cause extreme harm. No matter what anyone says, I don't believe they can enjoy this, not when the option for them to live a more natural life in a wide open space exists.
More than 30,000 people, myself included, have signed a petition set up by The Independent online calling for the Government to introduce a ban on wild animals. This is ahead of a vote in the House of Commons, where MPs will decide whether to support a vote to ban performing animals from the circus. The campaign is backed by the RSPCA and other animal charities, and there's still time to put your name to it, visit this link to sign. The decision is made at 3pm tomorrow - so get typing!
Let's leave the acrobats and clowns to provide the entertainment, and get the animals out of the ring!